We speak with leading members of the With Pride LGBT+ network committee at Bank of Ireland about what Pride means to them.
Across the world it is Pride season and many workplaces including Bank of Ireland are proudly celebrating their LGBT+ communities. Within the bank the Pride committee every year coordinates events and celebrations for the season.
But in reality Pride is not a month or a season it is all year round.
“It’s a celebration of everything to do with the community, all aspects of the LGBT+ community and it’s a beautiful thing. But beyond that it is also a protest because we face a lot of challenges”
Two members of the With Pride LGBT+ network committee at Bank of Ireland Susanna Pilny and Stephen Donovan talk about what Pride means to them.
Stephen Donovan and Susanna Pilny, who lead the With Pride LGBT+ committee at Bank of Ireland
“I’m from Rhode Island in the US,” says Pilny who within just the past five years of living in Ireland earned herself a Master’s degree in Classics at Trinity and another Master’s degree in Biology from UCD. She came to Bank of Ireland through the data analytics programme. “I guess I’ve been very fortuitous. It looked like an interesting graduate programme and it allowed me to do more programming, which is something I want to get more into. I said let’s go for it. And it worked out and here I am.
“I guess I could have moved anywhere in Europe but I really loved Ireland because the people here are so wonderful. The community here are very warm and that’s why I chose to stay.”
For Pilny Pride is a lot of things but if there was one word to sum it up for her it is “defiance.”
Pilny points to a Stonewall report in the UK that found that 35% of LGBT+ workers closet themselves in the workplace. One in eight trans and one in ten LGVT+ racial and ethnic minority workers have been physically attacked by customers or colleagues in the past year for their LGBT+ identities. An HRC report found that 17% of workers felt exhausted from hiding their sexual orientation and 13% felt exhausted from hiding their gender identity.
For Pilny and her community, Pride will have done its job when no one ever needs to hide who they are.
“Of course Pride is a celebration. It’s a celebration of everything to do with the community, all aspects of the LGBT+ community and it’s a beautiful thing. But beyond that it is also a protest because we face a lot of challenges. So it’s not just ‘hey, look at us’, it’s also ‘we’re still here; we have some obstacles to overcome and we will overcome them together’. So it’s a mix of things. It is very joyful but it’s also a bit solemn in that respect.
Kerry native Stephen Donovan works as Agile Management Office lead within Group Technology & Customer Solutions at Bank of Ireland. He joined the bank after many years previously working in investment banking in London.
“Pride means using the privileges we have to empower those voices that aren’t heard as loud and just ensure that people of all genders and orientations can live free and celebrate who they are without fear”
“Pride means a lot of different things to different people. For some people it’s a big celebration. But for me if I had to sum it up I think it’s about living your life, that you are authentic and true to who you really are inside. It’s really that simple.
“People should be able to be who they want to be without any sort of discrimination, shame or questions.”
Donovan and Pilny took the reins of the With Pride group at Bank of Ireland six months ago. The With Pride committee spans the bank’s operations in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK. “Communities, customers and colleagues are the three pillars of our organisation. In the bank our purpose is ‘enabling our customers, colleagues and communities to thrive.’ And within our With Pride movement, it is ‘enabling our customers, colleagues and communities with pride.’”
Donovan says Bank of Ireland has embraced Pride in every sense. “As a workplace it is very LGBT+ friendly. Our With Pride network has run LGBT+ training for the group executive committee. In a way we are trailblazers and we have run trans one-on-one training across the bank for customer facing colleagues. So yeah, it’s very forward-thinking.”
He echoes Pilny’s sentiment about Pride also meaning defiance, but tempers it with his own take: “without fear.”
“In our part of the world we are very privileged to have the ability to sort of live free, and be our authentic selves.
“Pride means using the privileges we have to empower those voices that aren’t heard as loud and just ensure that people of all genders and orientations can live free and celebrate who they are without fear.”